Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Limbo time as CCs tenure hangs in the balance

Another important fixture, another winless game. Colin Calderwood may have been happy with the performance and the way we fought our way back into the game but is it enought to save his skin?

Our survival bid has stuttered along in recent weeks with draws not enough to pull us closer to the pack. Charlton and Watford have recently parted company with the men at the helm and with the inevitable kick-start in fortunes that that will bring our position at the foot of the table was perilous.

A trusted Donny fan friend of mine said Tuesday's encounter was a poor game and looked very much like two struggling teams struggling against each other - both of whom would've tasted defeat if up against another side in the division. In fact with James Coppinger's strike possibly crossing the line things could've been much worse.

The end of the game brought the first really audible 'Calderwood Out' chants from the Tricky diehards - and Calderwood was unwise to dismiss them as an insignificant minority. With just two wins in 19 games grumblings should be expected.

The calls for his head continued from the cyber warriors and the national press linked us with the likes of Davies, Dowie, Allardyce and Boothroyd which seemed to me to be simply the papers compiling a list of out of work bosses to match up with a bottom of the table side.

However, whispers and gossip aplenty kept whisking its way around the world wide web - surely Arthur was to be wheeled out for the obligatory 'vote of confidence' statement today??

A trusted friend then heard Big Sam was out of the running but Davies was in the frame - a mixed message, did that mean CC was due for the boot?? Was an announcement imminent? The rumour mill was steadily heating up to a frenzy.

Then the Evening Post website confirmed that Big Sam wants a Prem job (Blackburn it is then...) and that Billy Davies has held preliminary talks with us.

I know the Post doesn't have the best of reputations among the masses following the 'It's Baggio' debacle but surely they must feel confident to put this story out. If true it strikes as odd - why conduct talks for a position that isn't vacant?

As the day ends we're left with more questions than answers - Are we talking with Billy? Is anyone else in the running? Will CC get the boot? Will the board move to confirm or deny the many managerial stories out there on the net? Will we sign anyone before the end of the loan window?

It's been a day of rumour, intrigue and plot - hopefully by this time tomorrow we'll have the answers!

Monday, 24 November 2008

D-Day at Doncaster

Another game, another post match sinking feeling fuelled by frustration and utter dejection. It was like the last four games never happened and tame, toothless Forest returned with a bang and failed to put 10-man Norwich away.

To be fair to the Canaries they did well with a man down for so long in the game but you get the feeling that we really let them off the hook. For some reason the second half was characterised by long hopeless lumps up towards Tyson - who desperately tried to use his pace to trouble their back line.

Norwich were not just a 10 man team in the second half but they had also been forced to move ex red Clingan into centre back. The fact that we didn't properly try to exploit this weakness was another in a string of failings.

The game was seen as a massive opportunity to pull closer to one of the pack of teams above, even before the sending off of Gary Doherty. Now suddenly, after a half decent run of late the fact we couldn't convert draws into wins has come back to haunt us and we're back rooted to the bottom of the table.

Last season's visit to the Keepmoat was in a way a turning point. Defeat there left virtually all of the faithful (yours truly included) resigned to missing out on automatic promotion but sparked a reaction in the players that helped bring about the triumphant run-in to the season.

Can we really afford to lose there again to cause the players to start picking up the points we need? It may be further from the end of the season but this game seems every bit as important as last year's League One promotion clash - the impact of going four points adrift at the bottom and potentially nine points from safety is unthinkable.

I never thought i'd be clamouring for Ian Breckin's return but that's exactly one of the things I think has to happen if we are to emerge victorious in Yorkshire tomorrow.

Breckin is simple but effective and does not make the type of lacklustre errors that Wilson made to gift Croft a crossing opportunity for Norwich's first goal. Although not the best captain we've had, 'Breckinbauer' is also a better leader of the team than Wilson.

Central midfield is also somewhere we could do with a leader right now but the lack of talent there is slightly worrying. Perch battles on manfully but really needs a partner and whilst Thornhill looks to have great potential we need something a bit more in times of need - something which we don't really appear to have on the books. Cohen has been excellent recently, but only because he's been moved to a wider position and looks to be over-awed when asked to control a game from the centre.

Up front we are crying out for Earnie to return. A striker that will pounce on a half chance is just what we need. We fashioned enough openings to win the game on Saturday but were not clinical enough to put them away. None of them were perhaps what you would call gilt-edged but you can't rely on 'gimme' openings at this level and have to put away a fair few half-chances.

Unfortunately it appears that Earnie will not be available for the Doncaster encounter. However, it must be said that Tyson's pace is perhaps more effective away from home on the break and we should still cause them difficulties. Doncaster are a team that had been playing well and not winning like ourselves but recently have picked up a couple of decent results. They're a stylish footballing side and are likely to dominate possession so counter attacking play with Anderson, Tyson etc could be crucial to success.

However it happens though CC must pull something out of the bag here. The Derby criticism amnesty he enjoyed, followed by praise for some decent performances and results was wiped away with a pathetic second half against Norwich. The mood of the supporters, and indeed the players, could get colder than the weather with a defeat in Doncaster...........

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Important run starts today

Long time no blog! In fact I was last typing away in the glorious aftermath of a derby game that was utterly ridiculous yet strangely satisfying. The last four games didn't look like bringing much joy - with 3 away trips and league favourites Birmingham at home. However, six points, no defeats and some encouraging results have at least brought hope for a turnaround.

The doom-mongers (and there are plenty out there on the net) will quite rightly point out that we have won only one of those games - despite having the chances and possession to take more points. They will also note that no clean sheets were recorded in that run and we have shown a tendency to give away a lead.

These points are all perfectly valid but the fact remains that had we had more points in the bag before 6 points and those performances in those four fixtures would have been a very decent return. The important games now lay ahead for Calderwood and his merry men.

The next 3 in particular see us host Norwich, travel to Doncaster and then welcome Barnsley to the City Ground. The points accrued from the last games gave us a decent foundation but it is in these that we need to pick up the points to get out of the relegation zone.

The Canaries clash is worryingly televised this evening but it is time we shook off the camera hoodoo and put Roeder's charges to the sword. Their team has some impressive names with the likes of Lita, Lupoli and Sibierski likely to trouble Champinship defences, but their position in the league and propensity to leak goals means we should be seeing them off.

Ex red Sammy Clingan also returns to the banks of the Trent for this encounter and I'll be interested to see what reception he gets. I thought he was incredibly over-rated here and I never quite warmed to him like some fans did. I aksi got the impression he thought he was switching from us to the big time with Norwich so itd be good to get one over on him today!

Earnie looks as though he's back from injury against his former employers but it will be interesting to see if CC throws him straight back into the line-up - especially given the impressive form of Joe Garner and the recently re-invigorated Nathan Tyson. I personally think he'll remain on the bench.

Three points is crucial for me - not only would that build on the steady-but-impressive progression of recent weeks but sets us up nicely for the trip up the A1 to Donny. Conversely we don't want to be going there with the danger of being set adrift at the bottom.

The season hangs on a knife edge - nothing will be decided in three games time but a positive or a negative swing either way could be extremely influential into how the remainder pans out.

Come on you reds!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Camp and Attwell deny sheep in derby day drama....

'Robbed, mugged, beaten up and dumped in the gutter' - that was Paul Jewell's assessment of how he felt post match on Sunday. Great isn't it?! Let's face it - Stuart Attwell is our 'coffee cup'!

Before the frantic finale I was not overly impressed with Sundays officiating - with McGugan's red card and a poor offside decision against Garner indicating that we may not get the rub of the green. But then came the unforgettable climax.

A ridiculous penalty decision against Chambers saw one Addison header chalked off and then, after a glorious penalty save and another heroic effort from the resulting corner from Camp (more on him later), came Attwell's crowning glory. He inexplicably ruled out another goal - leaving eggs on the faces of those sheep botherers - Jewell included - who were already wheeling away in celebration.

That moment and the sheep's subsequent indignation was priceless.

But although Attwell wrote his name into Forest-Derby history in a baffling Roche-esque fashion, there were plenty of positives about the Reds' performance that shouldn't be forgotten.

Firstly - take a bow Lee Camp. The fact that a Derby fan saved Forest in such a superb manner is remarkable - but the passion he showed after not only diving to his right for a jaw-droppingly brilliant save from a Parasite (that's his name right??!) penalty and a fabulous finger tip stop to deny Thatpolishbloke-czak (also correct I think!) from the resulting corner was just incredible. As Calderwood quite rightly said - those few moments alone will win him a special place in Forest folklore. Someone sign him up!

As a team we probably played some of the 'uglier' football seen played by a Forest side this season. McCleary and Anderson never really settled, Lynch had nervy moments and Earnie was largely quiet on his return to the Sheepdip. However, there was a visible team spirit and gritty work ethic on show that was encouraging for what looks like being a long slog of a season.

Breckin's basic style seems suited to our current circumstances and his presence gave us an experienced head and someone who knew Elington well.

A special mention must also go to Joe Garner. The half-fit summer signing battled hard and proved a nuisance for the sheep backline when he was on the field. He looks to have a 'nasty' streak which pleases me greatly - we've been too nice in front of goal this year and now we've got someone who defenders will definitely not enjoy playing against. He also played one absolutely stunning ball out to Anderson with the outside of his foot - showing he has style to add to his endeavour.

The players showed the type of fight and determination which may be taken for granted by the outsider for these such occasions but given our recent showings at the wrong end of the A52 this was a refreshing change.

Perhaps this result and showing may help build an affinity between players and fans that has been lacking in recent years. It's felt a long while since the boys in the Garibaldi have been 'loved' by the masses - shown by the fact that barely a new chant has been started for any of them for five years. It will need more than just one game but maybe the passion of Garner and heroics of Camp will warrant a closer connection with the players after years of ins and outs and underwhelming performances had seemingly severed the bond.

And what of Calderwood? Teetering on the edge of a supporter revolt this time last week ol' CC must surely have bought himself some time now. A win at Palace and a point at Derby is a great start towards a rescue package but its only a start. It's an horrendous cliche but our Stranraer supremo will need to make this a turning point.

But let's worry about the five point gap and the visit of Birmingham later. For now it's time to be proud of the boys......and laugh at the sheep of course!

You Reds!!